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In Session: Race and Japanese Studies: History, Intersections, and Identity
2: War, Race, and Identity Formation Among Children Born During the Japanese Occupation of the Dutch East Indies
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Leiden University, Netherlands
In this paper, I examine the racial identities of children born of war, conceived by Indo-European mothers (Dutch colonial-Indonesian) and Japanese fathers during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (1942-45). Raised in Indo-European families who were deeply affected by the brutality of war and occupation, Indo-European-Japanese grew up with wartime images of Japan as the enemy, which portrayed ‘the Japanese’ as inhumane and bestial by nature. Anti-Japanese sentiments within their communities in the Netherlands also meant that an association with Japan was considered as a taboo, and that their Japanese parentage was often kept as a family secret for decades. When confronted with the knowledge of their Japanese parentage, many experienced their Japanese identity as an existential challenge. Central to their struggles to come to terms with their identity as ‘child of the enemy,’ therefore, were not only the wartime tensions between the countries of their parents, but also a racist discourse on Japan which continues to define the meaning of their existence. Based on oral history interviews with Indo-European-Japanese children born of war, I explore the impact of the history and memory of the Japanese occupation in the Netherlands, and the meaning of race among children born of war who had largely been unaware of their Japanese parentage, yet whose lives became at the same time defined by wartime discourses on Japan.